As the holidays approach, we’re all trying to find True Meaning amid the spending and the gathering, the sugar highs and exhausted lows. I had been thinking about the coming Christmas season when I received this little list from a well-meaning friend. These are all good things, no doubt. But as I read the list, that annoying little red flag started waving at me. Will they truly make Christmas more meaningful? I hate to bah humbug, but there are some assumptions made here that I take issue with.
Ghosts are dangling from neighborhood porches. Scarecrows and pumpkins litter lawns, assorted witches fly their brooms into sturdy tree trunks, and costume stores have sprung up all over town. Love it or hate it, it’s almost Halloween.
When it comes to celebrating Halloween, Christians are incredibly polarized. Some (such as the Church of England) consider Halloween to be a “religious festival just like Christmas Eve.” Others condemn the holiday as pagan and satanic.
With all the hype about Halloween, we often forget that the name is a contraction of All Hallow’s Eve—the night before All Saint’s Day. Realizing that I know next to nothing about the idea of sainthood, I did some research. In the process, I found a very helpful site that explained a lot:
The Church, East and West, has always distinguished between worship (latria), given to God alone, and veneration (dulia), which may be given to the saints. The highest form of veneration (hyperdulia) is due to the Blessed Virgin Mary. If someone is treating a saint as one should treat God, then yes, that is idolatry. That being said, Catholics believe that the saints have a role in our lives, as intercessors on our behalf, because we are all united by our communion in Christ. The saints are continually praying for us and interceding on our behalf, on account of their closeness to Christ. This is because God is the God of the living, not of the dead. As such, asking a saint for intercession is no more idolatrous than asking a holy friend or pastor to pray for you.
“We know how to celebrate Christmas. We’ve got that down to a science. We just haven’t figured out how to celebrate Jesus.”
This quote is from Matt, who blogs at TheChurchOfNoPeople.com. While his posts are always thought-provoking and entertaining (yes, he manages to accomplish both!), this statement really got me thinking.
It’s true. Our culture is so bound up in Christmas that we miss Jesus. Even in the church, we sometimes focus on the Christmas program, the poinsettias for the platform, the gifts for missionaries, the songs, the turkeys for the poorer part of town, the lights, and all the other holiday accessories, that we just don’t have time for the birthday boy. Have we even invited Him to the party?
Thanksgiving. That lovely holiday, with the family gathered around the table. Soft music plays in the background, snow gently falls outside. Dad is carving the succulent turkey while the children sit quietly in their seats, mouths watering. The conversation circles the table as each person describes the many things they have been thankful for this past year.
Thanksgiving, that hectic holiday. Mom is trying to gather the family, put the final touches on the dinner, pour the drinks, and carve the turkey, all at the same time. At one end of the table, Aunt Mattie is well into yet another stomach-turning description of her recent root canal. At the other end, Uncle Milt has clearly imbibed too much eggnog. Grandpa is complaining that the pouring rain is making his rheumatism flare up. The eight-year-old twins are poking one another with their forks and fighting over who will get the drumsticks, while the football game blares from the TV in the next room. No one has seen Dad in the several years since he ran off with that floozy account manager.
The Christmas decorations have been up in the stores for months, ads are playing on TV, and a suffocating feeling of being overwhelmed is beginning to engulf me. I feel like Scrooge. It’s not that I’m against Christmas—far from it—but I’m very much fed up with the commercialized substitute our culture feeds us. It makes me want to crawl under a rock and stay there until January.
Every year I rebel against spending money we don’t have, baking things I shouldn’t eat, and the self-imposed pressure to decorate the house—knowing I’ll have to put it all away again a few weeks later. Yet I eventually find myself doing all those things anyway.